Cheltenham Festival 2020
Author: Jordan Yates
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle:
SHISHKIN @ 11/4
CAPTAIN GUINNESS @ 14/1 (Each Way)
Kicking off with the opening race which is of course the Supreme and I’ve had a couple of punts in this and the first of these comes in the form of Nicky Henderson’s Shiskin who’s the current market leader at 11/4. A very impressive specimen to look at, he’s been equally as impressive at the business end of things winning his last two hurdle races in emphatic style. He may not have done it yet at the top-level unlike some of his market rivals here, however, he looks every bit a Grade 1 horse and a very big run would be no real surprise.
My each-way play in the Supreme is the Henry De Bromhead trained five-year-old that is Captain Guinness who arrives here with just the two runs under his belt. He won his first outing by seven lengths and then followed up with a solid effort in second behind Andy Dufresne in a Grade 2 at Punchestown. He wasn’t given a tough time of it that day and stayed on strongly from the back to press the eventual winner, he’s likely to come on from that effort considerably.
Willie Mullins’ six-year-old arrives here unbeaten for Closutton and was very impressive when winning a Grade 1 by over nine lengths the last day at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s got the potential to be another star for the yard and is very likely to play a considerable role here, he’s under the same ownership as Shishkin.
CASH BACK @ 7/1 (Each Way)
BREWIN’UPASTORM @ 7/1 (Each Way)
The Arkle betting is currently dominated by Notebook and Fakir D’Oudaries who look to set the standard in the race, in particular the former who has looked a star this season winning all of his races leading up to this. I’ve had a look outside the top two for a couple of each way punts and the first of these is Willie Mullins’ Cash Back who’s a best priced of around 7/1 currently in the betting. He’s a prominent racer that likes to dominate his races from the front and was last seen when putting it up to Notebook all the way to the line in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival. If getting his own way out in front here and getting into a jumping rhythm a few of these might find it difficult to peg him back.
I also think Olly Murphy could have a big say here with Brewin’upastorm who has solid form at the track. He ran a solid race in the Ballymore last year where he looked to be travelling notably well turning for home, in this particular affair the race could well be run to suit for him. The race is built up by horses who like to be prominent and there’s a considerable chance that he could well take advantage of a few that won’t see out the trip at what looks to be a guaranteed frantic pace.
The rightful favourite for the race who has won four on the spin this term for Henry de Bromhead since going chasing. His last win came over Cash Back at the Dublin Racing Festival and there’s no doubting that he’s the class act in the race that they all have to beat.
Ultima Handicap Chase:
THE CONDITIONAL @ 8/1 (Each Way)
The first Handicap off The Festival is the Ultima which is as expected, a fiercely competitive affair. I’ve sided with David Bridgwater’s eight-year-old The Conditional who arrives here off the back of a very solid campaign. He finished second in the Ladbrokes Trophy back in November and before that won a handicap over course and distance here when beating West Approach by over a length. He looks a lot more progressive than some of these and could well prove to be up to higher level graded company later in his career, I think he has every chance.
A prolific winner who heads affairs for Kim Bailey and David Bass. Most recently winning the Grade 3 Gold Cup at Ascot and if turning up in the same form as he so often does he’s the one that sets the standard here.
EPATANTE @ 10/3
CILAOS EMERY @ 7/1 (Each Way)
We have one of the worst looking Champion Hurdles in living memory on our hands and finding the winner of it looks a complete minefield. Looking at the current field there’s a whole host of them that are questionable participants, such as Benie Des Dieux, Honeysuckle and Envoi Allen. That leaves you with who’s most likely to turn up here and take advantage of this weak looking renewal and I think Epatante looks solid enough for Nicky Henderson. She’s progressed impressively this term, winning a hot Newbury handicap and following up with the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle. If continuing on the same rate as progression into this race she’ll likely be bang there for her connections who have such a good record in this race.
I’ve also had an each way play in the race with Non Runner No Bet firms and I’ve done that on Cilaos Emery for Willie Mullins. He was originally tried over fences this term and sat prominently in the betting for the Champion Chase for some time, he fell at Leopardstown over Christmas and was then given a spin over hurdles where he won the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial. It was an impressive display that day despite a few jumping errors, and I believe it may well prove a shrewd move from Closutton having a crack at this as he’s well worth his place here in this line-up.
Last year’s Triumph winner hasn’t quite lived up to expectations so far this season, he finished tamely here in The International back in December and followed up when looking the winner in the Trial race at Haydock before emptying close home. It’s likely he will be fully tuned up now, however, and if returning to the form of his Triumph win he’d be a chief threat.
BENIE DES DIEUX @ 4/5
STORMY IRELAND @ 15/2 (Each Way)
Willie Mullins has dominated the Mares’ Hurdle since it’s inception and he should’ve won it last year as well. If turning up here, the horse that should’ve gave Mullins another win in the race last year should make amends for her final flight blunder and that’s, of course, the very talented Benie Des Dieux who sports those famous Ricci silks. Winner of the race in 2018, she came straight to The Festival last year but has had the benefit of a run this time around, and that came when she emphatically dismantled the field in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle. She’s one of the best mares we’ve seen in recent years and looks a festival banker should she take her place.
Mullins has an array of options when it comes to the Mares Division and I think Stormy Ireland is one of the best each-way bets of The Festival. She was second in the race last year, however, she arrives into the contest in a lot better form this time having won all of her three outings which included two Grade 3 contests. In one of those Grade 3’s she got the better of her stablemate Elfile by over five lengths, and she’s since gone on to boost the form considerably. Honeysuckle is the main danger to Benie here but should either of the top two not fire for whatever reason, Stormy Ireland is best of the rest by some way.
Class mare who was long thought a Champion Hurdle hope following her Grade 1 exploits this season. Last seen when winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival she’s the clear danger to Benie here and should serve it up to her resulting in a proper match up.
Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase:
IMPERIAL AURA @ 11/2 (Each Way)
HOLD THE NOTE @ 10/1 (Each Way)
Imperial Aura has finished second here on the last two outings, the first of these came behind Nicky Henderson’s Pym at the December Meeting and then more recently behind Simply The Betts in a hot handicap at the Trials Meeting. Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old arrives here with a fine career record, having never been out of the top three in all contested races. This presents a whole new test, however he’s still unexposed and there’s a suspicion that there is a lot more to come.
Mick Channon has had success in Cheltenham handicaps in the past and I quite like the chances of Hold The Note here who’s set to be ridden by Jonathan Burke. He didn’t have the best of starts to the season, finishing a distant third behind Western Ryder and then pulled up at Kempton. However, he bounced back to form with a fine second behind Two For Gold in a Grade 2 at Warwick and if progressing again from that run he’s every chance of putting in a bold showing here.
Gordon Elliott trained six-year-old who was smart over hurdles and has converting that form over fences. Last seen when second to the smart Salsaretta at Punchestown he’s likely been trained for a tilt at this for owners who have had succes in Cheltenham handicaps.
National Hunt Challenge Cup:
LAMANVER PIPPIN @ 14/1 (Each Way)
Lamanver Pipping hasn’t been seen on track since November and is one of the more unknown entities in the line-up. He hadn’t shown a great deal before his win that day at Chepstow, however the manner of the victory was very impressive. He made a few jumping errors, which will need to be eradicated here, however he put the race to bed in assertive style. It’s a bit of an “out there” selection, but I think there is a lot more to come from Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old and if getting a clear round here who knows where he could finish. He’s certainly got a lot of ability.
The hot favourite for Willie and Patrick Mullins. A smart hurdler that has since gone on to win all of his starts over fences so far, although prone to a few jumping mistakes, he’s the class act in the field and will take a lot of beating.